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Tuesday, 23 August 2011
Page: 9061


Mr PERRETT (Moreton) (17:52): I rise to speak in strong support of the Schools Assistance Amendment Bill 2011. The federal Labor government is passionate about raising the quality of teaching in our schools and ensuring that all students, especially those in disadvantaged areas, are benefitting from schooling and improved transparency and accountability about our schools. It is a passion shared by all members certainly on this side of the House and probably, I would acknowledge, by most of those opposite—and not just the former teachers on the other side of the House.

Education provides young people the tools and know-how to enter adulthood, to succeed in life and to contribute to society. You do not have to look any further than the Building the Education Revolution program to see what this commitment looks like in action. Back in the day, the Howard government blessed our schools with 3,000 flagpoles, but the Rudd and Gillard Labor governments have completely transformed our schools into modern education centres, providing 3,000 new libraries—so 3,000 flags on one hand and 3,000 libraries on the other. The contrast must be a little embarrassing for those opposite.

Every other week I attend an opening of a new school building in my electorate thanks to the once-in-a-lifetime BER program—new multipurpose halls, new libraries and resource centres, language and science facilities, new classrooms. These modern facilities are transforming education for our young people. Last month I also attended the opening of a new classroom at Marist College at Ashgrove, which I think is in the federal seat of Brisbane.

Mrs Prentice: Ryan.

Mr PERRETT: I beg your pardon: it is Ryan. I take that interjection from the member for Ryan. As a former house master at Marist College, Ashgrove, I was thrilled to be asked to officially open the new classrooms and science labs. I was also delighted to join the local state member, Kate Jones, at the event and was impressed by her commitment to her electorate and her understanding of the great benefits of quality education facilities for local students. It was disappointing that there were not other members there. I am sure the member for Ryan had a full diary on that day, but I did not see her. I am sorry to hear about that. But I can tell you for a fact, Deputy Speaker Murphy, that no school principal, no parent, no teacher has ever complained to me about the BER program.

Mr Robert: I rise on a point of order—relevance. The Schools Assistance Amendment Bill makes no reference to the government's disastrous Building the Education Revolution overpriced school halls. I ask the member to be brought back to the substance of the bill.

Mr Bowen: On the point of order, it is perfectly in order for a member to talk about assisting schools in a schools assistance bill.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Murphy ): The member for Moreton has the call.

Mr PERRETT: This interjection has been made previously. The same interjection and the Speaker made exactly the same ruling. Perhaps the member for Fadden might actually look at what goes on in the House rather than jumping to his feet every time he gets an opportunity.

As I said, no school principal, no parent and no teacher has ever complained to me about that BER program. I am sure the member for Ryan and the member for Fadden would know that people do not complain about the BER projects. No-one has ever said to me, 'We didn't want this new building,' or 'Our kids didn't deserve a decent library.' It does not happen. The only people who will tell you that are the Leader of the Opposition, the member for Sturt and some of those opposite when they are in this chamber—only when they are in this chamber; not when they are in their electorate, obviously. These are the same people who want to rip $2.8 billion out of our schools.

Our revolution of the education system does not end with the BER program. In Moreton the Labor government has delivered almost 2,000 new computers for schools; we have secured the employment of 21 school chaplains; and we have provided extra funding for 16 state, Catholic and independent schools through the Smarter Schools National Partnerships program, surely one of the best programs to come out of the Rudd and Gillard governments. I will list those schools: Our Lady of Fatima Primary School at Acacia Ridge; St Brendan's Primary School at Moorooka; Acacia Ridge State School; Corinda State School; Eight Mile Plains State School; Moorooka State School; Nyanda State High School in Salisbury; Oxley State School; Salisbury State School; Sunnybank State High School; Watson Road State School in Acacia Ridge; Yeronga State School; Yeronga State High School, where the Prime Minister and community cabinet will be on 1 September this year; the Aboriginal and Islander Independent Community School, also known as the 'Murray School', at Acacia Ridge; and the Southside Christian College at Salisbury. These are just some of the schools that will benefit from the Smarter Schools National Partnerships program—and that is just in Moreton.

The Labor government wants to see all students, public and private, Catholic and independent, city and country given the best opportunity to get a great education. As I said, I visit many schools and I know the overwhelming majority of students are performing at a high level and our teachers and other support staff work very hard to ensure that this happens. But the reality is there are still children who are left behind and there are still some children who struggle to rise above their circumstances to complete their education on par with their peers. This tells us that more can be done to ensure a quality education for all and to ensure that no child is left behind.

The national curriculum is an important part of this objective. It was agreed previously that all non-government schools be required to sign up to a national curriculum by 31 January 2012 as a condition of funding. However, the development of the national curriculum has taken a more phased approach and greater flexibility is required to ensure a smooth implementation. Obviously as a government we must get this right. Therefore, this bill removes the implementation date of January 2012 and will enable time frames to be determined by regulation. This will provide certainty to the non-government sector—the sector in which I taught for eight years—and it will also bring them into line with government schools, where I taught for three years.

The meeting of all education ministers agreed in December last year that the Australian Curriculum should be substantially implemented by the end of 2013. Therefore, we need to ensure that the implementation of the curriculum is the same for both government and non-government schools. All Australian schools should have the same curriculum time line, and this bill achieves that.

Just as there is movement between states, there is also significant movement between systems, particularly from state schools to private schools and particularly when going from primary to high school. This bill also ensures that we do not need to bring legislation into this place to amend future time lines. These are really practical implementation matters that do not need to be considered by the parliament. This amendment will enable the implementation time lines for each new phase of the national curriculum to be prescribed by regulations and authorised by the Standing Council for School Education and Early Childhood. Greater flexibility in the implementation process will also allow future editions and revisions to the national curriculum to happen more easily. The development of the national curriculum marks the beginning of a new era in Australia's education system, part of our journey from colonies to a unified nation. It will drive substantial improvements to our children's education. It will also put an end to the confusion experienced by students moving interstate who have to deal with changing subject matter, and it will ensure that all students, no matter where they are, are learning similar material. It will also help teachers, by giving them a clear idea about what is to be covered but with the flexibility to adapt the curriculum to local contexts—a national story with local characters, local lessons and local implementation. The national curriculum will also give parents a better idea about what their children should be learning at each stage of their education and the skills they should be developing. The bill before the House is another step along the way to achieving a better quality education for all Australian children, and I commend the minister for this endeavour and proudly commend the bill to the House.